Daytime talk show host and fellow Bravo-aholic, Wendy Williams, has been going-through-it lately. She’s been in Court fighting with her bank, Wells Fargo. Williams sued the bank claiming they falsely froze her accounts after her former financial advisor raised concerns of potential “financial exploitation.” Williams demanded that the bank allow her to access her funds, but they refused.
Wells Fargo petitioned the court to appoint a guardian for Wendy and claimed that she’s was (1) a victim of undue influence and financial exploitation and (2) of “unsound mind” to handle her affairs. A temporary guardian was put in place while the case was pending and last week, a New York judge appointed a guardian over Williams’ finances until July of 2022.
So, what can we learn from this story (other than the fact that banks can file a guardianship proceeding on behalf of their customers – yikes)?
This story is timely as Florida Rule 4-1.14 (Rules of Professional Conduct and Lawyers’ Responsibilities) has recently been amended by the Florida Supreme Court and tweaked the terminology for the representation of a client “under disability” to “with diminished capacity.” The rule provides good guidance to transactional attorneys (like me) that work with many elderly clients or clients suffering from diminished capacity.
While a Florida attorney is NOT REQUIRED to seek a determination of incapacity or the appointment of a guardian (or take other protective actions), after making reasonable efforts to exhaust all other available remedies to protect the client, the attorney MAY seek removal of the client’s rights or the appointment of a guardianship. That makes a lot of sense.
Additionally, luckily for us lawyers, we have the Florida Bar hotline to consult with, when faced with issues as to limited capacity and protection of the client’s rights.
There you have it, we learn that the law is ever changing to address the needs of our times and to protect as much as possible the rights individuals have. Go Team Humans!
And to Wendy (and everyone) going through it, we wish you well – “how you doin?”